News Updates

Breaking Points: FULL SHOW 9/26/22

Krystal and Saagar analyze growing nuclear fears, Russian dissent, sham referendums, polling data, Biden 2024, Brett Favre’s welfare fraud, Jen Psaki’s return, Trump vs DeSantis, European populist revolts, & Iranian protests!

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Timestamps: Russia: 0:0030:08 Polling: 30:0943:54 Biden 2024: 43:5552:00 Brett Favre: 52:011:00:09 Jen Psaki: 1:00:101:04:42 Krystal: 1:04:431:12:17 Saagar: 1:12:181:22:10 Trita Parsi: 1:22:111:32:29

9/26 NEWSLETTER: Russian Threats, Polling Numbers, Favre Scandal, European Revolts, & More!
Welcome to the September 26th, 2022 edition of the Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. Chicago live show tickets are selling quickly, here is the link to get yours: https://www.axs.com/events/449151/breaking-points-live-tickets. Check out last week’s CounterPoints episode and the live show AMA if you did not see them over the weekend!
Now to the 9/26 Show: https://youtu.be/jhrASYVYt_c
RUSSIA
In response to nuclear threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan revealed on ABC News his communications with Russian officials about the consequences if they use nuclear weapons. He warned of “catastrophic consequences” and a decisive American response if the Russians escalate to nuclear warfare against Ukraine. The west has begun boosting its nuclear deterrence as well, with capital cities making contingency plans in the off chance Putin chooses to strike. Officials believe Putin’s threats are unlikely to materialize even though he insists he is not bluffing when talking about nuclear weapons. A strike against Ukraine could trigger a conventional military response rather than retaliation in kind from western states. Putin is looking to regain momentum in the war against Ukraine by mobilizing over 300,000 conscripts and staging propaganda referendums in Russian held Ukrainian territory. He has justified nuclear threats by claiming the west has used nuclear blackmail and is holding territory belonging to Russia. Conventional Russian nuclear doctrine holds that to defend territory they can escalate up to nuclear war. With Putin’s statements about Ukrainian territory belonging to Russia, it is difficult to discern whether his threats expand traditional Russian nuclear policy. On Russian state TV, some talking heads have endorsed a nuclear escalation because they believe it favors their side. After repeated threats, the west will have prepared protection techniques and detection systems ready if Ukraine is targeted. The Ukrainians could shoot down a nuclear armed missile if Putin deploys a ‘tactical’ nuclear weapon to use on the battlefield rather than an atomic bomb. It’s more likely he is using these threats to obtain concessions from the west and mobilize support for the war in his home country.
Within Russia, protests have blossomed nationwide against the war escalation by Vladimir Putin. Activists have made their voices heard in more than two dozen cities across Russia despite the repressive political climate and reports of jailed protestors being sent straight to military training. The weekend protests came after initial protests last Wednesday following Putin’s national address announcing the war mobilization effort. A conscription plan to add 300,000 militarily capable men to Russian forces has led to chaotic scenes of men fleeing the country in droves. After a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive caught Russian forces off guard, they are looking to regain momentum in the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine. The protests have led Putin allies to express concerns about the extent of the mobilization, which according to reports has been more extensive than Putin indicated. Hit hardest by the conscription policy have been the poor, rural areas of the country containing ethnic minorities and stronger Kremlin support. The draft process has been poorly implemented at the start, with unqualified men and medically exempted men wrongly drafted to the war. They are attempting to use economic benefits to shift public opinion in favor of the measure as men have resisted police efforts to draft them into the war. A portion of the new soldiers will be used to conduct sham referendums in eastern Ukraine to create a pretext for Russian annexation. The votes are being taken under the barrels of guns and without any legal justification. Russian soldiers are going door-to-door to collect votes for the referendums in the Donbas region and other parts of the country. President Zelensky of Ukraine has called them a farce and encouraged residents to undermine them. Time will tell whether any of Russia’s actions improve their performance in the war against Ukraine as temperatures continue to drop.
POLLING
Two high profile post labor day polls on the midterm elections were released this weekend. In an ABC News poll, Republicans are up five points in the generic congressional ballot. They lead Democrats by large margins on the economy, inflation, and crime; all three issues are top of mind for voters. On the other hand, Democrats in the poll held large margins on the important issues of abortion and climate change. The hot button issues of immigration and education both put Democrats ahead of Republicans by smaller margins.
There were noticeable differences in the results obtained by a similar CBS poll that saw the GOP congressional lead continue to shrink. It gives Republicans a 13 seat house majority and a slim lead of one point on the generic congressional ballot. Two third of voters in the poll believe their rights and freedoms are at stake, though CBS does not provide specifics on what the statement means. A similar question in the poll saw 43% of voters say women will have less rights and freedoms if Republicans control congress. Additionally, many likely voters in the poll are concerned about their economic well being, safety, and way of life. CBS attributes the slight shift towards Democrats in their poll to the Dems lead on abortion growing while the GOP lead on the economy stayed the same. President Biden has promised to codify Roe v. Wade into law if Democrats are given two more senators in the midterm elections.
Meanwhile, the critical swing state of Arizona will proceed with a stringent abortion ban first enacted in 1901 after it had been blocked for the past half century. A judge said on Friday the ban will go into effect with the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court. The law had been passed before Arizona obtained statehood and in recent times, less harsh restrictions have been signed into law. The law provides exceptions for the life of the mother and criminalizes the performance of abortions. A 15-week ban signed earlier in the year by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey had been signed earlier this year.
BIDEN 2024
A new poll shows 56% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents would prefer someone other than President Biden to be the party’s nominee in 2024. Only 35% expressed their support for Biden to run again in the next election and Biden continues to avoid the question when asked by the media. This poll comes after Biden’s approval rating within the Democratic party jumped because of multiple legislative victories last month. Overall, he stands at 39% approval to 53% disapproval fueled by poor ratings on the economy. One major worry for Democrats is Biden’s age, but criticism from party insiders has quieted since the spring. His light public schedule and repeated gaffes have been overshadowed by more intensity when addressing the nation. The team around Biden is more enthusiastic about another run, but the opinion of First Lady Jill Biden will matter most to the president. When asked about Biden’s future over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dodged the question amid speculation about her place in a potential Democratic house minority. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have all been floated as heirs to Biden. The unpopularity of Biden could give all three a window of opportunity, particularly if party insiders turn against the current president. All three possibilities have similar unpopularity numbers to Biden without the scrutiny he receives and his demonstrated ability to win against Donald Trump.
BRETT FAVRE
NFL legend Brett Favre’s involvement in a welfare fraud scheme orchestrated by former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is receiving more scrutiny in court and the media. ESPN reported Favre continued to press for help from officials with funding a sports facility after being informed that using state funds would be illegal. So far, Favre has not been charged and his attorneys insist he did not know the origin of the funds. He pushed Bryant to give money for a multi-million dollar volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater, by promising it would be named after Bryant. Messages documenting repeated requests for funding through the DHS and legislative appropriations with cooperation from Bryant. The former Green Bay Packers Quarterback is a defendant in a civil lawsuit brought by the state over misused welfare funds. State auditors have shown $77 million was either misspent or stolen in the scheme. Bryant and his legal team are attempting to prove he was unaware of Favre’s attempt to use welfare funds for the project. They have blocked subpoenas and released selected texts about soliciting private donations for the stadium. Other texts show Favre and Bryant exploring the possibility of using prison laborers to build the new facility. As the lawsuit continues bringing revelations about the fraud scheme, Breaking Points will cover each important new detail.
PSAKI
Former Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki left her post for a position with NBC and MSNBC. She has been seen on the airwaves commenting about the midterm elections on Meet the Press. During a panel, Psaki admitted that if the elections are a referendum on Biden, Democrats will lose because of the economy and crime. She emphasized the need to consider state level factors and voters’ perception of Republicans being the more extreme party. Her negotiations with NBC took place while she was Biden’s Press Secretary, generating ethics complaints because of the conflict of interest. Expectations for Psaki were that she would tout the accomplishments of the Biden administration and uncritically back the Democratic party line. In this segment, she showed the slightest independent streak in her analysis of the midterm elections. Nonetheless, cable news networks do not typically permit more independent perspectives and Psaki is likely to blend in fine at her new media home.
KRYSTAL
In her monologue today, Krystal dives into the growing rivalry between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis within the GOP. The attention shifted to DeSantis when he sent migrants to Martha’s Vineyard which Republicans cheered on and Democrats were enraged by. Trump allies pushed back against DeSantis’ move, beginning with Jared Kushner and then Sean Hannity and Ted Cruz on Fox News. If Trump had executed the migrant stunt it is fair to say Cruz and Hannity would be singing a different tune about its legality and effectiveness. These look like opening shots in the battle between Trump and DeSantis as Trump moves to announce and DeSantis beats him at his own game. While DeSantis is driving news cycles, Trump is dabbling in nonsense and facing mounting legal troubles placing him on the defensive. No longer can Trump use his Twitter perch to generate derangement from elite journalists. For the first time, DeSantis is winning against Trump with Florida Republicans. The sunshine state is DeSantis home turf but Trump’s residence there has drawn his shadow over state politics. Back in January Trump had an eight point lead among them and now the lead has flipped to DeSantis +8 points. Furthermore, DeSantis is out fundraising Trump by bringing in $56 million through the first six months of the year, besting Trump by $20 million. He is becoming a donor favorite by attracting Trump boosters and longtime party donors who are not Trump fans. He has previewed his attacks on Trump to the donor class, emphasizing covid policy, deficit spending, and culture war issues from when Trump was in office.
DeSantis is playing the role in the Republican party currently held by Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic party. Elites have no problem with the ideology by the party leader but they prefer the alternative packaging of it. Dems want centrist liberalism without the gaffes and stumbles of Biden. Republicans want tax cuts and large corporations without the mean tweets and screeds. Both have a market for their package, just less than what the donor class and party elites would prefer. On the GOP side, the base really supports Donald Trump and defines the party based on what he says it is. DeSantis’ popularity with the MAGA faithful can be partially attributed to his refusal to cross Trump directly, making their rivalry a media creation. The presidential ambition of DeSantis will last for exactly as long as he maintains a friendly outward relationship with the former president.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar consider whether Trump should be irritated by DeSantis treading on his turf. He is rising at Trump’s pleasure and right now DeSantis is not coming at the king publicly. Trump will have his insults ready for DeSantis and make the battle must-see television. In the shadow of Trump, he will be unable to turn into his own entity and move the party elsewhere. Democrats are way more up for grabs yet nobody is talking about it.
SAAGAR
In his monologue today, Saagar takes viewers through the surging right wing populism in European countries, reflecting an anger about energy prices and the war in Ukraine. It’s been getting cold in Europe for weeks and demand for natural gas is surging in Germany and elsewhere. All over Germany there are families and businesses facing historic energy bills with no relief in sight. Poor and vulnerable Europeans will have to choose between cold and food and some could die of cold this winter. Income inequalities will be exposed and social unrest could follow across the continent. The European nations are determined to keep the energy crisis and sanctions regime in place as official policy which is already spurring populist discontent. Take Sweden, where the right wing party had a major victory in elections last week fueled by discontent on immigration, crime, religion, energy, and environmentalism. The far right party in Sweden made energy deregulation a focal point of its campaign. Another major sign is in Italy, where all signs pointed to far right Giorgia Meloni capitalizing on similar sources of discontent. In her victory last night, Meloni emphasized encroachment from Brussels, various cultural issues, and energy prices in Italy. It could be an indicator of what is to come in other European countries as populists capitalize on people’s discontent. The Czech Republic’s far right wing is surging because of the same problems and Slovakia is torn over the Russian war in Ukraine. Thousands took the streets in Brussels to protest high energy prices over the weekend and support for sanctions against Russia is plummeting in France. Opposition to sanctions is growing in Germany, particularly in the formerly Soviet parts in the east. Sanctions policy will not change for the time being and it will drive us into the unknown of European politics for years to come.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar dish on the uncertainty of European politics and the future of environmentalism across the continent. The European political parties have paired environmental and cultural leftism which has begun to lose out at the moment. As energy prices and food prices rise, there could be more backlash politics with country specific factors added to the mix. It’s not just Europe, the mass uprisings are happening in the developing world where inflation and food prices have crippled their economies. Iran is the latest instance of chaos and protests coming to the surface.
TRITA PARSI
Krystal and Saagar bring foreign policy expert Trita Parsi back to the show to discuss mass uprisings happening in Iran. Resistance has emerged after a woman was killed by the regime’s “morality” police and widespread discontent about a stolen election has pushed it forward. Decades of efforts to reform Iran’s system have been plagued by violence and fraud by the regime, leading young men and women to give up on the prospect. Current protests have called for overthrowing the entire regime and have been more enthusiastic about it than those back in 2009. Previous protests focused on specific policy and after the regime cracked down, demands went further against the regime as whole. From the outset, young people have been leading the movement and are calling for a new regime. By blocking reforms and limiting freedoms over 20 years while perpetuating corruption, Iran’s regime is pushing people to revolt instead of reforming the system. Repression has been lower than expected for now but it could grow in the days to come. The movement has been quite widespread and is going through cities where protests traditionally do not take place. Through repression, the regime is calculating it can stifle these protests. But without basic reform, they will be creating more protests with more radical demands in the years to come. Resorting to violence and repression is not a winning formula for the regime in the long term. Right now, the protests do not have clear leadership or an organization to channel demands onto the regime in a specific way. Leaders could still emerge but if they do not, the likelihood of its success is low. Iran has experience with overthrowing tyrannical regimes in the past. What’s been more difficult has been establishing democracy and a robust civil society.
Thank you for reading the 9/26/22 Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. The next full show will be tomorrow and send any feedback to james@breakingpoints.com.

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